Letters From Leton: The Greatest of All Time!

If you are of a certain age or into sports, the title above strikes a bell with you: Muhammad Ali – who called himself and was called by others, “the Greatest Fighter of All Time”.

Ali did and does arouse many emotions from folks – from the brash Cassius Clay winning his first championship to the Muhammad Ali who went to prison versus fighting in the Vietnam War to the legend who surprised the world by lighting the Torch at the 1996 Olympics.

I recently heard a story as told by Roy Firestone, a former ESPN reporter and author, about Ali’s visit to a nursing home once.

During his visit with the residents, Ali and his entourage (6 or 7 folks) came into a room with a 98 year old man. The man had lost his legs to diabetes, was hard of hearing, and had cataracts.

A member of Ali’s group asked the man several times if he wanted to meet the Greatest Fighter of All Time. The man did not respond.

Ali and his group were turning to leave when the man in his wheelchair gradually turned around, moved towards Ali, and slowly said, “I know you. You are the Greatest of All Time.” Ali puffed out his chest, smiled and said, “Yes I am”. Then the older gentleman said, “You are Joe Louis.” (Another legendary boxing champion).

A member of Ali’s entourage started to correct the old man when Ali stopped him and proceeded to move with the old man to a corner of the room where they visited for a time.

When Ali returned to his group they asked why he had not allowed them to correct the old man. Ali responded by saying that since the old man thought Joe Louis was the greatest of all time and thought Ali was Joe Louis, why should he not allow the man to have a fond memory of meeting one of his heroes?

In life we often have the opportunity to “correct people”. Or perhaps we don’t know something and “become defensive” when others offer advice or assistance.

But when a man of renown can bow to a 98 year old man whose name history may not ever remember – there is a lesson in humility there for all of us.

– Leton

“Letters From Leton” is a blog series comprised of the weekly updates that Leton Harding – President, Chairman, and CEO of Powell Valley National Bank, shares with the Bank’s team members. These newsletters are full of uplifting anecdotes and intriguing insights that are applicable beyond the Bank, so we want to share them with you.